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Beijing, March, 15th, 2017 (LaCroix/Ucan). Christian users of a podcast website and mobile app in China fear the deletion of their online religious programs is part of a movement to suppress "foreign religions".
Across the country, Christians have reported the removal of religious programs from Ximalaya FM since Feb. 27. Many are concerned it is related to the State Administration for Religious Affairs plan for 2017 to strengthen the management of online religious output.
Paul, a Catholic layman in Hebei province, listened to and shared programs on Ximalaya including homilies, religious lectures, and church news. "Most of the audio clips I shared from the site have been blocked and only very few remain," he told ucanews.com. "Someone asked Ximalaya what happened and they said they received notification from a higher level to block all religious content."
A Catholic user of the online service, "Xiaodelan Bookstore," left a note on its Wechat account saying that "Ximalaya deleted three of our programs overnight." Xiaodelan Bookstore wrote to Ximalaya for an explanation and was told that "since your uploaded files contained content from overseas religions, the platform currently is not qualified to review [them]. You are recommended to produce and upload other types of programs in the future".
Ximalaya promised to return all deleted audio files but the user has received nothing. When Xiaodelan Bookstore wrote to follow up they were told that "according to the request from relevant departments, all your uploaded content have been removed as they could not pass censorship".
Several Christians also complained to the Christian Times, a Protestant news site in mainland China, that their uploads were removed.
Lu, one of the complainants, said that she uploaded 31 programs with the word, "Gospel" included in all the titles. With 40,000 followers, Lu said she received a message from Ximalaya on Feb. 27 that all her uploads were deleted "in accordance with the request of related departments".
A reply she got from her second inquiry said that "audio files related to Buddhism, Christianity were all removed because religious content could only be propagated in religious venues", Lu told Christian Times.
When Lu told the customer service that she could still find audio programs under Buddhism, the staff replied: "That is because Buddhism is a Chinese religion while Christianity is a foreign one."
Ximalaya FM was founded in 2012 and developed into a mobile app in 2014 which now has about 200 million users.